At the 2018 World Cup (one of the best group stages ever), we didn't have a 0-0 until Day 13 of the tournament. We looked set for one on Day 2 of the 2022 World Cup before Frenkie de Jong's beautifully measured ball met the advancing Cody Gakpo just ahead of the outrushing Édouard Mendy in the 84th minute, and Davy Klaassen added another at the death.
The Netherlands 2-0 win puts them joint-top of Group A with three points and the same goal difference as Ecuador, and those two nations clash Friday in Al Rayyan. Senegal, on the other hand, needs to recover against Qatar that same day.
3 things we learned from Netherlands vs. Senegal
#1. It really hurts to lose your leading scorer.
Senegal's World Cup preparation was rocked by an injury to star attacker Sadio Mané. Out the door went his 93 caps and 34 goals with Ismaïla Sarr (10 goals) now the team's leading scorer. For the Dutch, Memphis Depay hadn't sufficiently recovered from a hamstring injury so his 81 caps and 42 goals were left on the bench, and Steven Bergwijn became the highest scorer in the XI with just seven goals from 24 caps.
So where would the goals come from?
The answer looked like "nowhere" with Vincent Janssen and Bergwijn toiling up top for the Netherlands and Boulaye Dia cutting a solitary figure for Senegal.
However, the 23-year-old Gakpo — operating as the No. 10 beneath the strikers — gave us that sweet release.
What a finish by Cody Gakpo pic.twitter.com/QjFJRc5PY3— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 21, 2022
Klaassen then made it 2-0 at 90+9'.
TWO FOR THE NETHERLANDS pic.twitter.com/pXTA8RWErr— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 21, 2022
Senegal put four shots on target but most were straight at Dutch keeper Andries Noppert.
#2. Senegal's spine gives them a fighting chance.
The Lions of Teranga should be able to find the back of the net against Qatar and Ecuador, and we saw today why they had so much success at the Africa Cup of Nations and during qualifying: Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly, Nampalys Mendy and Idrissa Gueye combine for a formidable spine, although the team lost midfielder Cheikhou Kouyaté to what looked like a pretty serious injury (he left on a stretcher).
Today's performance hinted at a big win over Qatar on Friday, and then it'll come down to a big clash with Ecuador on Nov. 29.
#3. Why any team would consider selling/benching Frenkie de Jong is beyond comprehension.
Throughout the summer, De Jong was routinely being pushed out at Barcelona. Part of that was the club's desperate need for money, but there was also a strange sense that he was somehow surplus to requirements in Barça's midfield. In the first eight match days of LaLiga, Xavi only handed the 25-year-old three starts.
De Jong was totally undeterred by all the noise. He said he was never leaving the Camp Nou, and then he just continued to do Frenkie de Jong things in midfield and entered the World Cup having started Barça's last six league games.
He's a hypnotizing force and a puppet master in the hole. If you're one of those people who sheds tears every night over the demise of the regista, cheer up, De Jong is the quarterback you've been looking for.
He finished with 80 touches (most for the Dutch), 52 completed passes (two key passes and one assist) and a bit of battle with two tackles.